Whoa!! - Opening Day Forecast.... 70 degrees F, Sunny, 4-7 mph gentle breeze - Water Temp at Solomon's 55.0 degrees F - Game On!!

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In less than 72 hours the joyous mayhem that is Saturday’s Opening Day of Maryland’s trophy rockfish season will achieve fever pitch. Boat fueled up? Check. Crew is prepped? Check. You’re loaded for bear with rockfish catching lures and gear, including Tackle Cove’s Ultimate Spring Rockfish Trolling Baits Combo? Check, and check. Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind as you weave your way through the flotilla of trollers equally bent on bending rods.

Water temps

Science tells us that while the first spawning wave has already occurred—state biologists report the prodigious spawning grounds of the Potomac, Choptank and Nanticoke rivers saw an uptick in spawning activity in past week or two—there’s more to come. By a fortunate design of nature, Chesapeake rockfish don’t all spawn at the same time, rather in waves. Most keen observers think we’re due for at least two more pulses of breeders. So that should mean more stripers are waiting for water temperatures to reach the more optimal 60° to 64.5° range, and with some luck a trophy season lasting into May. That said, it pays to monitor your fish-finder not only for bait pods, but subtle changes in water temps, and trolling in a north-south zigzag crossing the Channel edges (40-90 feet). The take home here is to make sure you vary the depth of your lures to cover the zones in the water column. There are several examples to check out in the Tackle Cove Rig Right section.

Jellies

Winter jellyfish (dreaded Lion’s Mane): These jellies occur in Chesapeake Bay from January-April, and unfortunately can make your sweet looking Rockfish Candy not very appetizing. The presence of winter jellies means you should routinely check your lures. Some charter skippers recommend have another set of umbrellas and tandems at the ready in case the jellies are really thick. If that’s the case consider picking up and running to another spot. At the end of the day, gently clean your rigs with freshwater and light amount of baby shampoo, careful to rinse and dry carefully. If the jellies get to be too much, you can always try out some Tsunami tandems – the 9” / 7” tandems work almost as well as the parachute tandems – almost.

2016 Trophy Season rules

Thankfully, DNR has ditched last year’s experimental slot. This spring the minimum size is 35 inches during the Trophy Season (April 16-May 15). You’re allowed one rockfish per day; most anglers troll but you can use chum or other bait (use circle hooks), but no eels. Boundaries are: Chesapeake Bay from Brewerton Channel to the Maryland-Virginia Line. You can only fish the Bay’s main stem as well as Tangier Sound and Pocomoke sounds. All other bays, creeks and rivers are off limits. For complete rules, visit DNR online at eregulations.com/maryland/fishing/striped-bass.

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